Defamation of national institutions

Courtesy:-  Osman Khan

How do you define defamation? It is defined as an intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person. 

Defamation may be a criminal charge comprising written statements, called libel, and spoken statements, called slander. The treacherous campaign launched by a particular self proclaimed No.1 television channel Geo, included all the elements of ‘defamation’ as defined above against head of the premier national intelligence agency ISI. The channel’s conduct was appalling and sent shock waves amongst the responsible media houses and other channels. Renowned television analysts and anchors not only in Pakistan but also drew comments from analysts on the channel’s ill-intended campaign against Pakistan’s military hierarchy and national security institutions. The vilifying campaign with total disregard to the harm it brought on our national interests at international level was immediately picked up by hostile foreign media and their intelligence agencies that exploited the opportunity to the fullest.
More so, the European parliament, US and UK voiced concern on the attack of Hamid Mir and freedom of speech in Pakistan. But none of them showed any moral courage to mention personal and national institutions’ defamation that was willfully carried out by the channel for which they voiced concern in the first place. Did any of these countries ever allow personal or their national security establishments’ defamations on electronic or print media of the kinds that the particular Pakistani channel did? Would they have supported such a malicious campaign against their own intelligence agencies by any of their own channels? Isn’t carrying out such preposterous propaganda by their media against their nationals or national institutions is a crime and liable to be sued in a court of law.
Unfortunate as it is the attack on Hamid Mir’s life has created a deep sense of remorse and grief in all segments of our society and cannot be condoned. At all official and unofficial levels his early recovery was prayed for. The entire episode was sensationalized on GEO TV by showing picture of DG ISI for over eight hours as having played some part in the shooting incident on Mir sahib. It could have been rather better if the actual shooting incident, Mir’s vehicle’s chase by the assailants till he reached hospital and their consequent escape were sensationalized for immediate action by police. 
The unwise and baseless allegations leveled against the head of ISI in embarrassing tone and misdemeanant language not only brought the person of DG ISI in disrepute but harmed the interests of the country at national and international levels. The nation was shocked at ‘do not care’ attitude of the channel and the arrogant attitude caused immense anxiety in the responsible people of Pakistan. Renowned columnists, anchorpersons and senior journalists were baffled with the organized malicious campaign by the particular channel in the name of attack on Hamid Mir. All of them were unequivocal in saying that the malicious campaign was a clear violation of journalistic values, ethics and code of conduct.
In whole the episode the channel could have avoided its misadventure had it depicted some responsibility in following journalistic norms. Renowned TV journalist and a senior anchorperson Talat Hussain commented on the campaign by saying that, ‘the allegations by the GEO TV are akin to a charge sheet wherein ISI Chief Lt.Gen Zaheerul Islam has been blamed.” He added, “The television channel and Mir’s colleagues seem to have registered an FIR and issued a judgment in the case…” Talat Husain was not the only journalist but there were many other responsible journalists who really got perturbed by the insane approach of a channel towards the national security institution.
It is not new for The Independent Media Corporation to which the two newspapers, one in Urdu and the other in English and a television network belong, to almost daily demean the Pakistan Army, the ISI or other national security institutions. But the latest tirade of the group’s newspapers and GEO TV against the army and ISI have brought together thousands of Pakistanis on the social media calling on the government to ban the channel and various posters have been put up in various cities vowing “We love Pakistan Army and the ISI”.
Despite the independence granted to the press by General (Rtd) Musharraf many years ago, the fact is that some sections of our media, as proved by GEO Network, are still unable to differentiate between conviction and suspicion and between slander and fair and responsible reporting. The GEO television network in its over exuberance capitalized on Mir Saheb’s firing incident and found yet again an opportunity to malign army and the ISI in the attack. In reporting Hamid Mir’s brother’s accusations against the General heading the ISI, the channel surpassed all the ethical and journalistic ethics in fair and responsible reporting. Its slanderous demeanor in which Amir Mir’s accusations were repeatedly hurled at DG ISI gave an impression that the channel was itself carrying out the trial indicting the General and condemning him in the public eyes. GEO has always tried hard to link ISI and the army in various incidents in the country but on all those occasions it itself acted as prosecutor and a judge to hammer down the army and the ISI time and again. Our media must learn not to exploit freedom of speech as it does not grant the right to anyone to slander or malign somebody or the institution on opportune incidents.


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